I am a person of firsts in my family. I was the first one to be born in the US, from a Mexican immigrant family. I was the first one to get a high school diploma. I was the first one to speak English. And also, the first one to seek mental health treatment.
I mentioned my family is from Mexico, and the culture of our family is reflective of our heritage, both positive and negative.
Along with amazing food and strong family values, we also have a stigma of mental health issues and treatment, one which was difficult to overcome.
I remember telling my parents that I had started mental health counseling, daily medication and that I had been diagnosed with major depression and anxiety. They didn’t respond. My mother kept cooking, and my father kept watching the TV.
Privately, my mother expressed her distaste. “Nadia, you’re not crazy,” she said. As I watched her face, it went from puzzlement to almost anger.
I tried to explain that it wasn’t about being “crazy.” I have a chemical imbalance that keeps me from feeling and thinking appropriately. I tried to tell her how my depression would keep me from taking a shower or leaving the house day after day. I tried to tell her how my anxiety made me feel like I was having a heart attack and I couldn’t breathe. I tried to tell her how I felt like I couldn’t make it anymore without counseling, and without my daily medication.
None of it seemed to sink in.
It’s been over a decade that I’ve had this conversation, and I remain committed to my mental health and wellbeing, despite the lack of support from my family. I understand that coming from a family in which suicide, depression and struggling with mental health isn’t a topic of conversation, that they grew up in a country and in families that would never address mental health for a myriad of cultural reasons.
And now, with my own son, I am the first generation to practice and encourage healthy mental health habits. We talk through feelings and fights. We deep breathe when we’re upset and I’ve let him see me handle the worst of my own feelings. It’s not always perfect, but we’re not going to pretend that mental health issues don’t exist in my family. They do. And if and when the time comes he tells me that he’s seeking mental health treatment, I will be the first one lining up to support him.
I would encourage you to take the first step if you need help with your mental health, regardless of the culture you grew up in. Maybe a culture that doesn’t recognize mental health issues.
For mental health emergencies: Colorado Crisis Services There are four ways to get confidential and immediate help: by phone at 1-844-493-8255, over text message (text the word “TALK” to 38255), via an online chat service, or at walk-in centers throughout metro Denver, northern, the southeast region and the western slope. Many of these services are available 24/7.
Be the first. Take the first step.